With all due respect to Rafael Benitez, it seems clear that Jose Mourinho is the reason behind Chelsea's motivation of late.
Since encountering an upset against Southampton in late March, Chelsea have won the totality of their Premier League fixtures apart from their 2-2 draw away to Liverpool in which Luis Suarez’s bite and controversial 96th minute equaliser stole the headlines.
Rumours suggest that Chelsea’s failure to play in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League would blow up owner Roman Abramovich’s plans to sign Mourinho this summer. Taking this into account, it is up to the players to secure a top-four finish before the club’s Russian billionaire ties up a much-anticipated deal for Real Madrid’s current manager.
When Benitez took over from fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012, winning the love – or at the very least, the respect and trust – of Stamford Bridge’s home crowd was always going to be a tough challenge.
However, the interim manager made it clear that his focus was on nothing else but guiding Chelsea to better results this season.
The first three games were hard for Benitez as his new side drew blanks at home to Manchester City and Fulham in the Premier League. To make matters worse, the Blues went on to lose 3-1 away to West Ham United. Calls to sack Rafa on the spot became louder than ever.
From there, Chelsea went on to win seven of their eight remaining fixtures in 2012, but defeat to Corinthians in the FIFA World Club Cup final in mid-December revived hostilities from fans towards Benitez.
The year 2013 has seen the ex-Valencia coach take the reigning Champions League winners through ups and downs. The Blues have picked up many more wins than anything else but some of their defeats were crucial.
First, they lost their two-legged semi-final tie against Swansea City in the League Cup. In the FA Cup, they knocked out Manchester United in the quarter-finals only to suffer defeat against Manchester City in the semis.
Chelsea have not had much luck domestically and a top-four finish is the only thing left on the cards – if you exclude their European adventure.
Having bottled it against Swansea in the League Cup and City in the FA Cup, one could predict failure for Benitez in the very last stages of Chelsea’s top-four race in the Premier League. The Blues have three tricky fixtures left.
This Wednesday, they will host Tottenham before playing Aston Villa away from home. They will then close their league campaign with a match against Everton at Stamford Bridge. Ahead of their 36th league game of the season, Chelsea rely on their own fate with 68 points – one above Arsenal who have played a game more, and three above Spurs.
However, nine points are a lot and things could change in the blink of an eye. Motivation is needed in such crucial moments and former coach Jose Mourinho is the one who can provide this in abundance for the Blues.
“He's interested in our results and everything that happens at the club. He's not only in contact with me but also with Lampard and other players,” Chelsea defender John Terry revealed on Tuesday.
“He's a top manager whom I really enjoyed working under. […] We worked hard and we could also talk to him about personal problems. He was a friend. We were all sad when he left.”
Worry no more, John Terry! Mourinho will surely come back to Stamford Bridge - if Champions League football is secured.
As for Benitez, winning the Europa League title at Benfica’s expense would do justice for the lack of love he receives from Chelsea supporters.
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